Airports during the world cup were packed with cricketers. You literally couldn’t move for bumping into Lendl Simmons facetiming his family, a fan pushing past Rod Marsh to get Geoff Boycott’s autograph or Preston Mommsen buying a new neck pillow.
For me, it was Kumar Sangakkara that stood out the most.
Australia had beaten Sri Lanka at the SCG, I was off to Hobart, as was the Sri Lankan team. But the Sri Lankan team had travelled in a large group. Kumar was a part from them. He was trying to check his family in for another flight. He had his wife and two small children. It was clear that they were in the wrong part of the airport for his family’s flight, so Kumar had to drag all their luggage out of the terminal and find the right place.
He also had two of those massive suitcases that only families who can’t pack efficiently have, and he was dragging both of them behind him, while his kids jumped up on them. He never even stopped, he just kept dragging these bags with kids on them.
The night before he had made 104. It was his third, of what would end up as four, hundreds on the trot. He was one of the most famous cricketers alive, in some of the greatest form of his life, during a world cup where everyone was talking about him, was performing such a mundane, annoying task.
No one went up to him, no one other than me, even noticed it was him. He was just a dad, who was tired, but still willing to do what he needed to do for his family.
There must have been times he felt much the same when batting for, or captaining Sri Lanka. He must have looked over at the fame and adulation of Indian players, the wealth of the Australian or English players, and shook his head.
Kumar was a legend the night before as he slammed the feared Australian attack around, he was a legend as he pulled his bags (and kids) in that airport the next day and a legend when he smashed Scotland a couple of days later.
When he finally got his family away, and checked in himself, three Sri Lankan fan security guards asked for a photo. Kumar was fed up, probably sore, and dashing for his plane. There were four photo combinations taken, at one stage, I actually thought they’d get him to take a photo just of them. He smiled well for all of them. Then dashed off.
Had that been an Indian player with a Test batting average of 57 the airport would have come to a standstill for him. But that day, Kumar took as many photos with fans in the airport as Xavier Doherty did.
An all time legend of cricket, a hero of his nation, but mostly, the invisible force of Test Cricket.
After the Scotland hundred, I spoke to one of the bowlers, I wanted him to articulate what it is like to bowl to Kumar when he is in that form. Instead he paused and stared into the distance. It was like he was staring at the face of God. Then he took a long breath.
Bowlers can now breath easier. But cricket has a lost a God.